Simon Reade’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s AN ELEPHANT IN THE GARDEN is a poignant and charming piece of theatre that doesn’t shy away from the pain of war
Following successful UK tours from 2014 to 2019, Poonamallee Productions brings their production of Michael Morpurgo’s AN ELEPHANT IN THE GARDEN to the digital stage for the very first time in collaboration with the Barn Theatre.
Set against the backdrop of the 1945 Dresden bombings, AN ELEPHANT IN THE GARDEN tells the tale of an ordinary German family. While Lizzie’s father is away fighting the Russians, her mother has been working at the zoo and one day brings home an elephant – known as Marlene – to prevent its execution. But when Allied forces bomb their hometown, the pair, accompanied by the elephant, are forced to flee the destroyed Dresden with no material possessions and nowhere to go.
Running at just over 60 minutes, there’s a lot to like about Simon Reade’s adaptation of Morpurgo’s much-loved novel. Despite its dark subject matter, Reade’s seamless direction brings this vivid and moving story to life. Max Johns’ simple yet effective circular set makes good use of Matthew Graham’s lighting design and Jason Barnes’ sound design, stripping the story back to the characters, all of whom are played with charm, energy and perfect timing by sole performer Alison Reid.
Taking on role after role, from a young German girl to a Nazi guard, to the plodding, load-bearing and indestructible elephant, Reid successfully breathes life into the myriad of characters, her compelling storytelling keeping the energy up for the hour-long running time.
In fact, the only real criticism is that with so much plot squeezed into the short piece, scenes move so quickly from one to the next that it becomes difficult to fully immerse yourself into the piece. The accents could also be a little clearer and the pace could vary more, especially for the little ones.
That said, this is a poignant and charming piece of theatre that doesn’t shy away from the pain of war and is one that introduces young people to some important historical events.
Tickets for the production are £13.50, which will provide 24-hour access from the performance time.
AN ELEPHANT IN THE GARDEN is available to stream until 18 April 2021.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.